May 10, 2021

Social Interaction and Engagement While Working Remotely

by Mike O'Neill

Remote work is becoming more the norm than the exception in today’s world. This is especially true since the COVID-19 pandemic created a need for social separation and public spaces and buildings’ shuttering. Social interaction and engagement became a challenge while working remotely.

Some employees have taken to this type of work, becoming more productive, more satisfied, and enjoying the flexibility remote work provides. 

However, there’s a flip side to these benefits. It’s challenging to avoid moments of isolation and loneliness without having actual contact with co-workers. For some, interpersonal interaction has become a significant part of their work experience and sense of inclusion by the office culture.

Thankfully, there are ways to minimize the adverse effects of remote work. We’ll share with you why social interaction and engagement while working remotely is so important and 6 ways you can improve your remote employee’s communication.

Why Is Social Interaction So Important?

Research has shown that social interaction and support can help minimize worry, stress and make employees feel supported and connected. A few of the ways that workplace culture and social interaction help contribute to employee well-being are:

  • Work relationships become meaningful
  • Employees feel that management is approachable
  • Increases cooperation between individuals and teams
  • Colleagues display caring towards each other
  • Employees feel that they “belong” to a group
  • Birthdays, promotions, and other special events are celebrated
  • A sense of fun is created
  • Employees support each other

So, how do you create this same interaction without being in person? Here are 6 tips to help you create a community while being distanced from each other.

6 Ways to Increase Social Interaction and Engagement While Working Remotely

1. Use A Chat Program

If you haven’t already, consider using a chat program like Slack, Jabber, or Yammer to create a conversational outlet for people to talk to each other throughout the day, having a way for employees to communicate in a more intimate way than email fosters collaboration and a sense of belonging. These chat programs also create a sense of fun where coworkers can joke with each other, celebrate achievements, and support each other.

2. Develop Employee Resource Groups

Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are employee-led committees that promote positive work culture and an inclusive workplace. These groups are built on shared interests and cooperation, naturally bringing people together. When employees participate, they feel a sense of group belonging, building stronger social bonds.

One idea for an ERG is to have them create social activities. Using email or your chat program, come up with a monthly theme and execute a costume contest, meme-fest, or another way to interact with each other in a fun way.

3. Establish Daily Check-Ins

Encourage your managers to institute a daily call with their remote teams. They could even go so far as to doing a weekly one-on-one. This can foster a feeling of inclusion and demonstrates that management cares how employees are doing throughout their time working remotely. By making these calls regular and predictable, you’ll encourage inclusion and collaboration between employees and groups.

4. Get Creative With Celebrating Accomplishments

It’s more important than ever to celebrate accomplishments. Some organizations have a robust recognition program, but most employees value a personal and straightforward recognition award. A few ideas for recognizing achievements are:

  • Have a senior leader set up a team video call and brag about the team’s accomplishments.
  • Ship SWAG to your employees – things like party hats, DIY cocktail kits, or chocolate. Then have a video chat to celebrate, make a toast, or just socialize without work involved.
  • Mail hand-written thank you’s or other congratulations. The personal touch goes a long way.

5. Establish Rules of Engagement

Remote work is more efficient and satisfying when managers set expectations for the frequency of communication. Use video conferencing for daily check-ins, but use a messaging app for urgent things. Managers should keep employees updated on when they can reach them throughout the day. 

It’s essential to keep an eye on the communication between teams and employees. Make sure everyone is sharing the information they need. You should establish these policies as soon as possible, generally during the first online check-in meeting. The most important rule about the engagement is to make sure all employees share the same set of expectations for communication.

6. Create Virtual Lunch or Coffee Get-Togethers

Since there’s no commute, you can socially engage your employees by scheduling virtual luncheons or coffee chats. Start the workday out with a video coffee chat – get to know how everyone is doing. Ask if there’s anything special going on in their personal life, whatever it is, just keep work talk out of it. 

In the same vein, create some virtual luncheons. Maybe DoorDash or UberEats a meal to the employee so they feel special. A little effort goes a long way in making an employee feel recognized, heard, and supported. 

You could also create lunch-and-learns in this way as well. Take a specific subject about remote work struggles or a new company policy or product release. No matter how you do it, take time to make sure employees feel connected to management and each other.

Need More Ideas? Let the Professionals Help!

Creating solutions to manage your remote work challenges can cause stress, long hours, and even keep you up at night. Bench Builders can help you navigate the complex issues you face. We help you solve problems with people, planning & process matters. Helping our clients solve problems and overcome obstacles is the best part of what we do. We provide strategies that are practical and drive results. Contact us today and learn how we can help you navigate the challenges of remote work.

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